B M 301 am
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA
Dhirendra Krishna Bose, B. A.
k. M. Conner & Co., Ld.
Loudon Library & Press.
130, Bowbazar St.>
Some portions of this appeared in 'The Indian
Good Templar^ 1919, the official organ of the Grand
Lodge of India, I. O. G. T., and some parts of it were
read in Lord Clive Lodge No. 35, Calcutta, and the
rest published for the first time.
I thank Dr. H. H. Mann, D. Sc. the Grand Chief
Templar of the Grand Lodge of India, for en-
couraging me in this work, and Mr. S. C. Palit m.a.,
B.L., for going through the M.S.S.
I received much help from the Bengalee paper
'Sura' by tc\y uncle, the late Kumar A. K. Deb,
published from the Sahitya Sava of Calcutta, a debt,
I gratefully acknowledge.
95, Grey Street,
; K. BOSE.
Calcutta, 26th March 1922.
5> O \i * ♦> 1
Ages and Scriptures ... ... 1
1. The Vedas ... ... ... 4
2. The Smrities ... ... ... 10
3. The Purans ... ... ... 13
4. The Great Epics — The Ramayana and
the Mahabharsrta ... ... 15
5. Buddhist Precepts ... ... 19
6. The Tantras ... ... ... 22
II. OTHER SHASTRAS.
1. Artha Shastra ... ... ... 26
2. Kama Shasta ... ,.. ... 30
3. Ayur Veda ... ... ... 33
HI. FOREIGN TRAVELLER.
1. Greek Sources ... ... ... 37
2. Chinese Sources ... ... 42
3. Arab Sources ... ... ... 44
IV. LITERATURE AND ART.
1. Literature ... ... ... 46
2. Sculpture ... ... ... 49
Wine in Ancient India.
Ages and the Scriptures*
The Hindu Shastras are classed into : —
1. Shruti, which includes the four Vedas.
2. Smriti, the work on social and family duties.
The great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabha-
rata are included in the Hindu Scriptures, and works
Artha Shastra of Kautilya and Kama Sutra of
Yatsayana, though not truly Dharma-shastras are
works on social domestic and political duties of men.
Ayur-Veda or science of life, deals in health and
medicine, which forms a part of Atharva-veda is
also included here.
Buddhism originated from Hindu philosophy, and
later Hinduism is much indebted to this cult, so is
its precepts too are hurriedly glanced.
2 WIN£ in ancient INDIA.
According to the Hindu Shastras there are four
ages, and for each age a suitable shastra is given.
We find from Kularnava Tantra, in Satya-Yuga (the
Golden age of righteousness, free from sin) the scrip-
tures were the Vedas.
The second age was the Treta-Yuga (righteous-
ness decreased by one fourth) the scriptures were the
The third age was the Dvapara-Yuga (righteous-
ness decresed by half) the scriptures were the Puranas,
The fourth age is the Kali-Yuga (the iron age, in
which we find so much wickedness, and the decline
of all that is good) the scriptures are the Tantras.*
We shall deal only with the following : —
1. Shruti or the Vedas.
2. Smriti or codes of law, the Dharma
Shastra proper i. e. religious or secular, and
3. Puranas or mythology proper.
4. The great epics — the Ramayana and the
5. Buddhist precepts, an off-shoot of the
^According to historians the early ages India are divided
into five epochs viz.
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
1. Artha-Shastra political science.
3. Ayur-Veda or medical science.
1. The Vedic period 2000-1400 B. C.
2. The Epic period 1400-1000 B. C.
3. Rationalistic period 1000-243 ^^' C.
4. Buddhist period 242 B. €-500 A, D.
5. Pauranik period 500 A. D. to 1124 A. D.
1. The Vedas.
Of all religious books of the Hindus the Vedas
are the most respected and the most ancient. There
are four Vedas, of which Rig- Veda is the chief.
In the Rig- Veda we find mention of wine. Grog
shops were in existence then. Wine or beer was
stored up in leather vats for the use of the public
(1. 191. 10). In the sacrifice called Sautramoni-yajna
wine was drunk.
But the chief intoxicating drink of those days
was the Soma-juice. According to the Rig Veda the
Golden-winged Hawk, brought Soma from the
Heavens. (IX. 43-62) Soma-juice was the fermented
milky juice of a creeper called Soma (Asclepias-acida
or Sarcostemna viminale) a plant of the family of milk-
weeds. It is described as having hanging boughs,
bare of leaves along the stalks, of light, ruddy (or
golden) colour with knotty joints, containing in a
fibrous, cane-like outer rind, an abundance of milky
acid and slightly astringent sap or juice. It is this
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 5
juice which when duly pressed out and mixed with
other ingredients and allowed to ferment yields the
intoxicating sacrificial beverage. The process of
preparation is given by Windischmann as : —
'' the plants plucked up by roots, collected
by moonlight on mountains are carried on a car
drawn by two goats to the place of sacrifice where a
spot covered with grass and tw'igs is prepared,
crushed between stones by the priests and then
thrown into a sieve of loose woollen weave, whereas,
after the :whole had been further pressed by the
hand and the juice trickles into a vessel or kettle
which is placed beneath. The fluid is then mixed
with sweet milk and sour milk or curds with wheaten
and other fiours and brought into a state of fermen tui-
In this way the juice was kept for nine days to
ferment. "The beverage is divine, it purifies, it is a
water of life, gives health and immortality and pre-
pares the way to heaven."
It was taken with butter, curd, milk, fried or
parched grains. —
Let me quote a few hymns of Rig V'eda about
Soma (IX. 66).
2. "O Soma ! j^our two leaves alternated and you
attained a wonderful glory thereby.
* Vedic India — p. 172.
6 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA,
3. O Soma ! the leaves covered thee, a creeper
on all sides, and you flourished in all seasons.
7. O Soma 1 you have been crushed, you flow as
a stream to Indra, scattering joy on all sides, you
bestow immortal food.
8. Seven women stir thee with their fingers
blending their voices in a song to thee, you remind
tiie sacrificer of his duties at the sacrifice."
Another : —
"Thou Soma art the real Lord,
Thou King and Vrita slayer too.
Thou art strength that gives success ;
And Soma let it be thy will
For us to live, nor let us die.
Thou lord of plants, who lovest praise."
"Of all the drinks that Indra have, you are the
most pleasant and intoxicating" (IX. 96).
"This is Soma, who flows wine, who is strength
giving " (IX. 55).
f About the intoxicating properties of this juice
there are sufficient evidence in the Vedas. The poet
of the Rig- Veda goes into ecstacy on the virtues and
exhilarating powers of Soma. The chosen few,
who partook it, give most vivid expression to the
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 7
state of exaltation of intensified vitality, which raised
them above the level of humanity. It was surely as
potent as wine. It was a divine liquor which gave
the Gods strength and immortality (LX. 108)
without which they would lose their might, their
eternal youth. This was the Amrita or ambrosia.
There w^as a sacrifice in honour of Soma in which
the juice was first offered to the gods after which
the priest and sacrificing party partook of the juice
themselves. Needless to say large quantities of juice
were used. In the invocation we find "O Soma there
is nothing so bright as thou. When poured out,
thou welcomest all the gods, to bestow on them
immortality"' A whole book (IX) is devoted to the
praise of this juice and it is alleged that by the offer-
ing of the juice the gods were tempted out of the
Even the gods were not immune from disease,
and the evils of intemperance were evident even
among them. Indra, it is said drank so much once,
that his stomach assumed huge proportions and
saliva flowed freely from his mouth. And in the
prayers to Soma we find an entreaty of this nature
'' O Soma do not derange our stomach" (8. 48. 10.)
In Yayur Veda we find that Vishva-rupa the son
of Tuashtar, while performing the Soma sacrifice
drank so much of the juice that he vomitted over the
8 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
sacrificial beasts ! We see from this that the Soma-
jiiice was quite an ardent spirit.
Soma was the vedic poets' chief drink till the end
of the period when -^'/^v^ (barley beer ?) was dis-
covered. The original Soma plant did not grow in
the Punjab and it had to be collected in the moun-
tains (Hindu Kush) and brought over. So the status
of Soma juice become changed. While Sura became
iiiQ drink of the people, Soma, despite the fact that
it was not so agreeable a liquor, became reserved for
its old association, as the purest drink, a sacrosant
beverage, not for the vulgar and not esteerned by the
priest, except as it kept up a rite.
In the Atharva-Veda we find in the after-life i. e.
after death the devout are provided with seas of
wine, butter, sugar, milk ete, (4-34-6.)
With a hymn of Soma we retire from the Vedas : —
"Where there is eternal light, in the world where
sun is placed, in that immortal, imperishable world
place me, O Soma ! fiow thou for Indra.
"Where the son of Vivasvat reigns as King
where the secret place of heaven is, where the
mighty waters are, there make me immortal. Flow
thou for Indra.
"Where life is free in the third heaven of heavens,
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 9
where the worlds are radiant, there make me
immortal ! Flow thou for Indra.
"Where wishes and desires are, where the bowl of
the bright Soma is, where there is food aiid rejoicing,
there make me immortal 1 Flow thou for Indra.
"Where there is happiness and delight^ where joy
and pleasure reside, where desires of our desires
are attained, there make me immortal \ Flow thou
for Indra/' (Rig Veda IX, 113),
2. The Smrities.
After the Vedas the Smrities come in importance.
If there be any conflict of opinion on certain point
between Shruti and Smriti, Shruti or the Veda is to
Smrities are the codes of law on domestic, social
religious duties of man. There are many Smrities
but only some of them are important. Historians think
"Gautama, Apastamba, and Vasistha belong to the
rationalistic period, Manu to the Buddhist period.
The remaining 16 works are probably also based on
ancient Sutra works, but belong to the Pauranik
Of these too Manu, Yajnavalkya and Parasara
are the greatest, and their injunctions are still carried
out by the Hindus.
In these we find wine is looked down upon,
especially to the higher castes, it is totally forbidden.
There were five most heinous crimes mentioned
there, and drinking wine or spirituous liquor was one
of them. (Sankhya).
*R. C. Dutt Ancient India P. 657.
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA, 11
The penance for drinking wine was very severe,
*'The wine drinker, should be made to drink that
liquor boiling hot, until he was completely scalded. "
<Manu XL 91.)
The higher castes, willingly and knowingly taking
wine, are to die by drinking boiling water, milk
or butter, (Yajna) or molten silver, lead or copper.
And those unknowingly drink wine —
**He must wear sack-cloth made from the hair of
the cow, must not shave, take only rice or oil-cakes
once in the night for one year. (Manu 11. 93.)
He must abstain from any work or worship, and
sustain himself with a small amount of food for
one year. (Bishnu 51. I. 2.) '*The upper three castes
must be initiated (in sacred thread) again, if un-
knowingly drink wine. (Parasara 12).
Gods do not accept offerings from a drunkard.
The son should not repay his father's debts that
are incurred in drinking. (Gautama 2). **A11 kinds of
wine are forbidden to the twice borns." (Bishnu
" Wine must not be drunk, given or accepted. "
t? WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA:
/, " To mix with a. drunkarcl is a sin. " (Bishnu). It is
stranger that the sages have made a nice distinction
between Soma-juice and wine. Thus, if a Soma-
drinker smells the mouth of wine-drinker^ he must do
There are many such injunction in all the different
Smrities, from these we find in what light drinking
was taken ; not drinking alone but even for smelling
liquor, touching the drunkard, penance had to be
3. The Puranas. ^
Paran^is raeans— 'ancient Ipre', they are mythology
■proper ; they generally follow the Smrities. They
too disapprove p£ wine. ' Other sins are, got ri<;l of by
penitence; bujt the drunkard must die 1
'Wine drinkers must suffer', that is the general
injunction of the Puranas. A few quotations are given
"here •— -
•■'"' Th^ twice born (viz. higher castes) must not
'dtin^, smell iior thin^ about wine. " (Kurma).
- "If one smells or touches wine, he must go to the
pur^jatory nailed Raur^ib. '' (Padma).
" To, kill . a drunkarcUs. /atherrtin act of peity, not
to say of sin." (Devi and Kalikab ;; . , .;
There are 18 chief Puranas and some of these are
■very ancient, though most of them have been re-cast
and re-vvTitten at later daj's.
• Though almost all the Puranas prescribe many
penances etc. for the drunk/^and wine is forbidden,
yet we find many examples of drinking and drunkard.
It is not possible to quote all examples. We conclude
the Puranas with the interesting myth of the origin
of wine : —
14 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
Once upon a time, the Gods (Suras) and the demons
iAsuras) were at war. The Gods approached Visnu
to assist them. He asked them first to suspend hos-
tility with the demons, and churn the ocean and
obtain Amrita. So thej^ first collected all plants and
herbs that grew on in the world, and threw them
into the sea of milk. Both the Devas on one side
and Asuras on the other, pulled Vasaki the king of
the snakes, who allowed himself to be used as the
rope to twist the churning stick, (the Mandara
mountain) and then churned the sea. Great was the
tumult that ensued, and from the milky foam many
sorts of rare and wonderful things began to come out,
the sacred cow, horse, elephant etc. and then the
Goddess of beauty (Luksmi) seated on a lotus, the
deadly poison etc. and lastly the cup of the precious
beverage (Sura). The demons did not accept her
but the gods did, and after this the gods were
known as Suras for accepting sura and demons as
Asuras or " without wine*' for not accepting her (from
Sanskrit Sura wine, and a without).
Of course there are different version of the myth
in some Puranas, I gave one from the Ramayana.
As the Puranas were much changed and recast
after the Mahammedan conquest and so they are
unsafe and unreliable as pictures of ancient Hindu
4. The Epics — The Ramayana and
These are also regarded as great religious books.
During the age of Ramayana wine drinking was
current in the society, and it was offered to the Gods
in worship. Sages and hermits used wine in
The ideal wife Sita, was seen drinking with her
husband in the Asoka garden in Ajodhya, after
the victory over the Raksasas. (Uttara 52).
We find Sita, invoking the goddess Ganga, the river
Ganges, while accompanying her husband in his
banishment thus : —
"Oh Goddess, be pleased, when we come back we
shall propitiate you with thousands jars of wine."
We see the great hermits and sages, hke Vasistha
and Visvamitra, honouring guests with many kinds
of foods and wines. (Bal. 53).
When Bharata was guest of Varadwaj, another
sage, he too was treated with enough wine. (Ajo. 91.)
At that age the common people were addicted to
16 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
drink and merriments, and we find that after the
banishment of Rama, the city of Ajodhya mourned
his OTs; and ■ there were no sweet sceiits of Avine,
fragrance of flowers and other scents in the streets.
We see the Banaras had drinking, garden. So
Avith the Raksasas. Probably these were the original
inhabitants of India before the Aryans came. The
.streets, of city of Kiskindhya, the kingdom of Banaras
scented wine. Their queen, Tara was found drunk.
(Kis. 33). .
; We find a long description of drinking garden of
the Raksasas, we cull a few passsges — "Her.e golden
jars, there crystal and ruby goblets full of wine,
ladies are lying disheveled by wine." (Sun 11).
In one place we find drinking was censured in
the book, Laksmana, finding Sugriva, the monkey-
king drunk, admonishes him thus : —
"Wine is not to be indulged in by those who are
in quest of religion (or duty > wealth or love for all
these are destroyed through drink." (Kis. 33).
But we find this advice was scarcely followed.
The age o£ the, Mahabharata is later ;* and though
the common people appear to be more sober, the rich
* The Hindus regard so, but the historians think it other-
wise. See R. C. Dutt-Ancient India Book II.
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 1?
and the brave, were not so. Almost all the chief
characters in the Mahabharata were addicted to
strong drinks. Ladies of high families too used wine,
we find the queen of Birat, sending her maid to fetch
wine. (Birat 16).
The great King Yudhisthira celebrated the horse
sacrifice in great pomp, and there seas of wine, lakes
of butter, mountains of rice etc. (Aswa 89).
But the evils of drinking were fully depicted in
the book. The celebrated claii of Yadavas, was so
much addicted to wine, that their chief had to pro-
claim that "any one preparing wine within the city,
must suffer capital punishment.. " (Musal.l).
But the precaution did not save them, and the
whole clan was destroyed by a family quarrel started
through drinking. Some 500,000 Yadavas were killed
Though the leading characters were all wine
drinkers, still we find they were not quite blind to
evils of intemperance, and some of the best advices of
Hindu-Shastras are found here.
"To abstain from meat and wine is the best
Brahmacharya or continence." (An. 22).
"Those who never touch wine in their lives are
called Munis or hermits." "We can get the same
is WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
benefit as are obtained by horse sacrifice, if we
abstain from wine." (An. 115).
The most celebrated sacrifice in those days was
the horse sacrifice, and in the ritual of this and in
coronation ceremony, we find — -
'\..Now the priest gives into his hand a goblet of
sprituons liquor, and repeats a propitiatory Mantra
When the rulers themselves used wine freely, one
can not but expect his people would follow his
example, rather than the precept of the Shastras. And
so vire find all advices for abstinence fell on deaf ears.
5. Buddhist Precepts.
Though Buddhism, which is based upon Sankhya
philosophy, is generally regarded as a separate
religion, we can take it to be a new sect or rather an
off-shoot of Hinduism, Gautama Buddha, the
founder, never believed he preached a new religion,
he thought he was only proclaiming the reformed
form of the ancient religion.
This religion is known for its great moderations
in all things, adopting the golden mean or middle
course, it is a system of self-culture and self-restraint.
We are not going to dwell on all the teachings
of Buddha, but his instructions for conquering
desires and passions and thirst of life are superb,
*'A more beautiful picture of life was never conceived
by poet or visionary ; and more perfect system of
self culture was never proclaimed by philosopher or
saint"-— R. C Dutt.
Among the moral precepts of Buddha, we find
20 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
"Let the house-holder, who approves of this Dharma,
not give himself to intoxicating drinks, let him not
cause others to drink, nor approve of those that drink,
knowing it to end in madness." (Dhammika Sutra).
There are five commandments in this religion
which are binding on Buddhists, laymen and
Bhikkus alike and one of these is —
"Let not one drink intoxicating drinks"
To be initiated into the Buddhist order one has
to accept 10 commandments and take this vow along
with other. —
"I take the vow to abstain from intoxicating
drink, which hinder progress." (Mohavagga 1-12).
In every fortnight confessions and disburdenment
of sins were held. And in these we find the different
sins, and naming the penance for each. Drinking
falls under ninety two minor offences which called
for repentance only.
Society in this age was quite temperate in all
things, in .some cases rather austere. But this gave
rise to Buddha-Tantricism, which in its turn gave
place to Hindu Tantricism, about which we will
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 21
Before we take leave of Buddhism, it is proper
to mention, that this philosophy has done much in
moulding worlds thought. Some Christian writers
admit that Buddhism in Syria was a preparation, a
fore-runner of the religion preached by Jesus Christ
two centuries later." While in India it gave rise to
the Vaishnava doctrine of love on one side, and
Kaula or Tantric doctrine of equality on the other.*
* Ancient India p. 446.
6. The Tantras.
Now we come to the most important part of the
Hindu Shastras as regards wine, viz. the Tantras.
There are great difference of opinion regarding
these. "To the historian, the Tantra Hterature
represents, not a special phase of Hindu thought,
but a diseased form of human mind, which is possible
only when the national life has departed, when all
political consciousness has vanished, and the lamp of
knowledge is extinct. "*
But in Bengal it played a great part, and the chief
strong holds of the Tantras are Bengal, Nepal,
Kashmir, and Gujrat. Other parts of India were not so
affected by this ritual. In Bengal some of the most
important worships are of the Tantric Gods viz.
Durga and Kali, and there are still evidences of its
hold on the society it once had.
We lind that the Tantric age, followed the
Buddhist age as a reaction. The severe austerities of
Buddhism gave rise to revelry and debauchery. And
this religion of ease and pleasure was highly welcome
to the people. We will see here only the part wine
* Ancient India p. 672 .
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 23
played in the Tantric rituals, other rites do not
Tantra is called "The Scripture of the present
age." "In this age, the Vedic rites are as powerless as
snakes, the poison fangs of which are drawn. (Maha-
nirban 1. 15).
We have seen before, that wine was looked down
upon in the Smrities and the Puranas, especially' in
worships, and if one offers wine to the Gods, he is
condemned. But not so in the Tantras. There are
five chief ingredients of worship and wine is one of
Tantra is the presentment of the Vedas which
are modelled to meet the informities of Kali-Yuga
(the present age) and in these Tantras we find the
use and abuse of wine.
Wine is indispensible in Tantric rituals. Great
care is taken to guard against the abuse or misuse
of it. Before taking wine, it should always be
purified, as there are some curses attached to it, and
to drink wine, which is not purified by Mantras is a
sin, and is like drinking poison.
A wife is allowed only to smell wine, instead of
drinking. A house-holder, whose mind is entirely
engrossed with domestic desires, " three sweets " i.e.
milk, sugar and honey, are to be substituted for wine.
24 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
But as a rule wine was absolutely necessary in
worship and without this one stands the risk of
losing life. Ordinarily one takes five cups only, and
drinks until the sight and mind are not affected, to
drink beyond is bestial. But with the case of a 'hero^
it is quite different, and in his case we find the
famous, rather notorious couplet which may be
rendered in English thus : —
" Drink, drink, and drink again,
Till you be flat on the floor,
Raising yourself, drink again.
Liberation at your door."
There are many praises of wine in the Tantras.
Wine is called 'the Supreme being in liquid form.'
It is called 'the great medicine of humanity, helping
us to forget deep sorrows, is the cause of great joy.'
But when not purified, 'stupefies and bewilders, breeds
disputes and diseases.' But when properly taken is
'the mother of enjoyment and liberation'. It 'destroys
dangers and diseases and burns up heap of sin and
purifies the world'. There are warnings too, and all
excesses are forbidden to house-holder.
Thus we have seen all the great Shastras of the
Hindus, and most of them disfavour the use of wine.
Let us conclude with the words of the great
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 25
law-giver Manu, "There is no fault in taking meat,
drinking wine or craving after flesh, these are quite
natural, but io abstain from these is the highest
With the Tantras we finish the Dharma-Shastras
proper i. e. the religious books. Now we come
to other Shastras, the non-secular, political and
Wine in Ancient India.
1. Artha Shastra.
Hindu Shastras are grouped into three main
I. Dharma Shastra, the religious books proper.
II. Artha Shastra, deals with wealth and worldly
prosperity. Politics is a part of this Shastra.
III. Kama Shastra deals with various desires
of the body. These three are the Triharga or the
three, for which the whole human nature moves. The
first, we have just considered in detail. Of the other
two,probably owing to the diif erent foreign conquests,
the national life of the Indians suffered a great deal,
and consequently, the science of politics was of
no use to the nation. They followed the ways of
the conquerors, and Indian art and craft suffered.
As Artha Shastra was of no use to the nation, so
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 27
they slowly disappeared. Of course we come across
the name of different authors or their works. We
know a sage, named Brihaspati, was an authority in
this Shastra, but his works are now lost to us. Lately,
we discovered Kautilya's Artha Shastras in tact in
Southern India, and from this we cull a few passages,
to illustrate in what light wine was taken in the
From this Shastra we find the different ways and
modes of management, of municipal supervision of
different parts of a town ; we see wine shops (with
cooked meat shop) were restricted to certain portion,
and inspectors were appointed over these. We take
a few passages from the chapter (XXV) of this
book, to show how wine and grog shops were
managed in those days.
"Liquor shall not be taken out of villages, nor
liquor shops be closed to each other. Lest workmen
spoil the work in hand, and Aryas violate their
decency, and virtuous character, and lest fire brands
commit indiscreet acts, liquor shall be sold to persons
of well known character, in small quantities
Those who are known, and of pure character, may
take liquor out of the shop, or all may be compelled
to drink liquor within the shops."
We wonder, whether the men of pure character,
2a WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
got wine for their own use, or they were the agents
or servants of the rich, sent to fetch wine. The
venders of wine were put to task if they sold Hquor
to persons of questionable character. However we
come to this later.
Then about the liquor shops : —
"These shops, shall contain many rooms, provided
with beds and seats apart. The drinking rooms shall
contain scents, garlands of flowers, water and other
comfortable things, suitable to varying seasons "
A fashionable cafe in those days ! But the shop-
keeper, had a good deal of responsibility towards
his customers, and probably that was the reason for
his being so particular about their character, for we
find, "When customers, under intoxication, lose any
of their things, the wine dealer, shall not only make
good the loss, but also pay an equivalent fine".
Probably there was excise department in those
days, and all were not allowed to prepare wine, for
we find " on special occasions of festivals, fairs, and
pilgrimage, right of manufacture for four days shall be
allowed." (to the people ?)
"On special occasions people (or families) shall be
allowed to manufacture white liquor, Aristas, for
diseases, and other kinds of liquor," (probably medi-
WL\E IN ANCIENT INDIA. 29
cinal wines) the above refers to the medical men
no doubt. The various kinds of Hquor mentioned
are Modaka, Prashanna, Asava, Arista, Maireya
and Madhvi. The formulas of these are given there.
We find Modaka was made from rice, Prashanna
from flour, Asava from sugar, Maireya from molases,
Madhvi from honey, all were mixed with different
kinds of spices, some with other ingredients, and
ferments in different proportions.
2. Kama Shastra.
Like the preceding Shastra, here too we have
to depend on practically on one book viz. Vatsayan's
Kama Sutra. Though we have many names of
authors and their treatises most of them are now lost
Little is known about Vatsayan, the author. From
the language, style, and plan of the book, we may
take it, that the book is of the same age as the Artha
Shastra of Kautilya, and from these two books we
get much light about the inner life, and mode of
civilization, and social customs of the citizens of that
age. (About 300 B. C.)
This book deals with duties daily routine of a
citizen ; some are his daily duties, and some his
occasional duties. Citizen, is defined as one (of-course
who lives in a city), who has finished his education,
and follows a profession, or has some independent
means of livelihood.
Among his daily duties, wine finds no place, but
we find among his occasional duties, he indulged
sometime with his friends in " heavy drinking". The
drinking party, met in each others houses or gardens.
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 31
They drank various kinds of wines viz., Madhvi,
Maireya Sura, Asava ; about the nature of these
wines, we shall consider later in our chapter on
Ayurveda. These wines, were mixed with various
kinds of salts, fruits, vegetables and condiments of
bitter, hot, sour tastes, offering these to one another.
(Book I. IV. 37-39),
In the gardens, in addition to drinking, thev
indulged in various kinds of games, such as cock or
ram fight or gambling, or game of chance. Often
they drank wine freely. They enjoyed life fully, of
course in their own way, is evident from the 11
different kinds of games mentioned here. It seems
strange that 25 centuries have passed since then, and
we still find surviving in a modified form, many of
the old games, in many parts of India. So much for
a citizen, let us look at the duties of his wife.
Vatsayana deals exhaustively about this too. In book
IV. we find a chapter on the duties of a wife. We
see the daily routine of a faithful wife, from early
dawn to late in the night, how she took care of the
household, her behaviour towards her elders, her
equals, what she should avoid, her toilette, her dress
&c., her duties in the kitchen &c., &c. Among the
duties we find, preserving of pots of Sura (wine) and
asava (rum) and their proper use (35) ; probablythese
wines were intended for the occasional festivities
32 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
mentioned before. But there is no evidence in this
book that the wife used wine, but the mistress did.
(IV. 11 59).
There is mention of wine, used to intoxicate
maids, and then get them married against their will ;
also harlots sought the help of wine-sellers for their
profession (IV 91) (III 24-25). But these are not use
but abuse of wine, and we are not concerned with
Among the qualifications of an accomplished
person, we find among other, he must not be addicted
to drink (VI. 11), and this was one of the qualities of
a proper lover.
Even from this Shastra too we find the Indians
were a temperate people.
The medical book of the Hindus are called Ayur-
Veda, or science of life, which has for its object not
only the protection of human life, but also the life
of animals and even plants.* It is a part of Atharva
Veda. The Ayur-Veda is considered to be the most
ancient system of medicine by Dr. Wise, in his
History of Medicine ; but the age in which it was
written is not known, and fragments only of the
original works are procurable.
The ancient Greeks, Arabs and Persians, paid
respect to Hindu medicine, and they translated many
Indian books of medical science. And the transla-
tion of Susruta was a standard book in Bagdad in
the 8th century. The Moors took this knowledge to
Europe, and from them other nations got their
Most of the original treaties are lost to us. Only
one of them the **Agnivesa Samhita thrice revised
and recast, survives in skeleton, and is known as the
* Ayur-Veda by M. M. Gananath Sen.
34 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
famous Charaka Samhita. Of the school of surgeons
headed by the roj^al master Dhanwantari
only one of them the Susruta Samhita, as revised and
recompiled, survives to tell the tale of mutilation".
Charaka, dealt exhaustively with wine, their
origin, qualities varities, on the use and abuse of it ;
we find from this, that wine was prepared from the
grains of corn, fruite, roots, stem, flowers, leaf, bark
and juice of different plants, and from sugar honey
and by combinations of all these in numerous kinds
of wines and liquors. Of these 14 kinds are fit for
Other books, some mention 60 kinds, and some
only 12 kinds of wines. But all agree in classifying
all liquors in three main divisions viz : —
(1) Gauri^ or prepared from gura or Sugar.
(2) Madhavi, or from fruit-juices and honey.
(3) Paisie, or from corn-grains.
Of these, the first two are wines proper and
the last is beer, in the modern sense. All these are
prepared by fermenting the ingredients for some
days. Some times first boiling these with sugar,
then fermenting and mixing these with certain leaves
and roots for flavouring purposes, and after a fort-
night, the liquor is decanted or distilled, and is ready
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 35
In Ayur-Veda, like all other current and some
modern medical books we usually find much praise
of wine, occasional warning for the abuse or misuse.
We quote a few passages for illustration. Charaka
says of wine 'invigorator of mind and body, antidote
to sleeplessness, sorrow and fatigue, producer of
hunger, happiness and digestion.'
**If taken as medicine, and not for intoxication, it
acts as Amrita (ambrosia) it cures the natural flow of
internal fluids of the body."
"Wine is natural food but taken indiscriminately
produces disease, but when taken properly, it is like
"Amrita" the immortal drink."
But w^e also meet with these too : —
"He who abstains from all kinds of wine, escapes
from every kind of physical and mental disease".
After Charaka comes Shusruta in importance, and
it too follows the first in the praise of wine in general.
There is a nice ode on wine in Charaka and we
give here translation of a few passages from this : —
(Wine) who is worshipped with the Gods, invoked
in Sautra-moni yajna, who is Amrita to the gods
soma juice to the Brahmans the destroyer
36 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
of sorrow, fear and anxiety who is pleasure
happiness and nourishment (to men)
We must not leave this subject, without mention-
ing a saying from Rajnigbantu, a later medical book
which is : —
"A Brahman must not touch wine, if a dead
man has chance of regaining his life thereby, (that is
by taking wine) even then he must not."
Wine in Ancient India.
1. Greek Sources.
We have seen from the different codes of the
Hindus that most of these advocate abstinence. Let
us see from contemporancy evidence, i. e. accounts
left by travellers who came to India in those days
how they found the Indians, whether they observed
these injunctions or not.
Of these foreigners, who came to India in early
times, we find the Greek account first. Some of these
Greeks came after the advent of Alexender to India.
Of these, some came like Magasthenes, as ambassador
to Indian Court. Some, though did not actually
come to India, had first hand information from
Indian travellers whom they met.
Other like the Chinese, came to India on
pil>£rimage or to study in the Indian Universities of
38 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
Nalanda and Taxila. They generally remained in
India for a few years, mixed with the poeple inti-
mately, and travelled through greater part of India,
visited important towns and shrines, and collected
copies of Buddhist religious books and them left
India. They left most valuable informations about
political, geographical and social conditions of the
Lastly came the Araba and other Mahomedan
travellers after the Mahomedan conquest. We give
here only the manner and customs of the Hindus as
they found them. They all agree that the Hindus
were a temperate people, and wine was never a
favourite drink with them.
We can take Ktesias, to be the first authentic
historian, who wrote about India. He had lived in
Persia as a private physician to King Artaxerxes
Mnemon, about 416 B. C.
Then comes Magasthenes's history, * Indika '.
He came to India as an embassy, to the court of
Sandrokottos, who is identified to be the Emperor
Chandra Gupta, from Saleukos Nikatar, the Greek
King of Bactria. Both the original books of Ktesias
and Magasthenes are lost, but the substances of the
books are to be found condensed in Strabo, Pliny
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 39
Dr. Robertson has observed, that the Greeks
through pride of their superior eiiHghtenment,
disdaind to pay attention to the people, whom they
considered as barbarians, and so probably anything
they saw worthy in other people, they thought must
be derived from the Greeks.
Nearly all the Greek historians mention that
Dionysus, their wine God, came to India in remote
times. He conquered the people, founded cities
and gave them laws. He introduced the use of
wine amongst the Indians, as he had done among
the Greeks, and taught them to sow the land, and
he supplied the seeds. He first yoked the oxen to
the plough. Magasthenes says, " men of great learn-
ing among the Indians tell, that in most remote
period, Dion3'sus came to India ".
Pol3'aen says, Dionysus in his expedition against
Uhe Indians, disguised the arms with which he
equipped his troops and made them wear soft
raiment and fawn skins. The spears were wrapped
round with ivy and thyrus had a sharp point. He
gave the signal for battle by cymbals and drums,
instead of trumpets, and by regaling the enemey
with wine, diverted their thoughts from war to
dancing. These, and other Bacchic orgies were
employed in the sj-stem of warfare, by which he
subjected India and all the rest of the world. About
40 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
Dionysus's Indian expedition, there is no Indian
account. Most probably it was conceived in Greek
From Greek legends in Greece, we find that
Dionysus (Bacchus) was the son of Zeus. He was
the wine god. He became mad, and wandered about
various parts of the earth. He first went to Egypt
then through Syria to India. He taught the inhabi-
tants of the places he traversed, the cultivation of
vine ; and introduced elements of civilization. He
ruled India for a long time. He w\as first to crush
grapes, and discovered the use and properties of
Alexander's followers, finding vine growing in
India, and seeing the people civilised, invented this
Strabo (XV.) quoting Magasthenes, says, that in
India there were some philosophers, who lived in
the mountains worshipped Dionysus, showing as a
proof that wild vine grew there, none of which are
found beyond the Euphrates. They observed also
certain customs which are Bacchanalian. But he
also mentioned another sect called the Sarmanes, who
lived in the place, abstained from wine. Most
probably these Sarmanes were the Sramans, the
But Ktesias does not mention about Dionj^siis.
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA, 41
From his account, we find the Indians were as a race
sober. They never drank wine, except at sacrifices.
They Hved happily enough, bein^J simple in manner
and frugal in habit. Their beverage was a liquor,
made from rice, instead of barley. Of the
products of the vegetable kingdom of India, Ktesias
mentioned a very good wine, which Lassan thinks,
to be an intoxicating liquor, prepared from sugar
and palm juice (toddy). Ktesias says, the cheese and
wines of the Indians were the sweetest in the world,
adding, he knew it from his own experience, since
he tasted both. Their kings were never allowed to
make themselves drunk, like the Persian King,
who on particular days at the sacrifice, was allowed
to do so.
He says, that wine was served to kings by maids,
and if the King become drunk, the maid could kill
him and become the wife of his successor. Most
probably this referred to certain particular incident,
not the general practice.
From Arrian's account we find that three kinds
of wine were imported into India, viz., from
(1) Layodisia, in Syria. (2) Italy. (3) Arabia.
Thus we see, like modern times, the foreigners
were responsible for the introduction of wine in
2. The Chinese Sources.
Of the Chinese travellers, who came to India, two
are most famous, and happily, both have left accounts
of the people and their civilization. The first of
these, is Fa Hian. He left China in 399 A. D. and
came through Central Asia to India, and remained
here up to 414. He recorded, among other things,
*' throughout the countrj', the people kill no living
things ; nor drink wine, nor they eat gralic or onion,
with exception of Chandals only. In this country
they do not keep swine nor fowls, and do not deal
in cattle, they have no shambles or wine shops in
their market places. "
He travelled through many places in upper India,
and after collecting many copies of the Buddhist
sacred books, he sailed from Tamralipi, at the mouth
of the Ganges, and thence he sailed to Ceylon, thence
visiting Java returned home.
After Fa Hain, came Houen Tsang. He left
China in 629 A. D. and came through Central Asia
to India, where he lived and travelled for many years,
and finally left for China on 645. He too gave a
general description of the arts and manners of the
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 43
Hindus, with whom he mixed intimately. His
account is very important to the historian, but we are
concerned here with the drink and drinking habits
The Kshatriyas were fond of the juice of the
grape and sugar-cane. Vine was not indigenous to
India, but was introduced here from Persia, probably
by the Greeks, and at the time of Houen Tsang
probably it was very common. Then he says, ** the
Vaisyas used strong fermented drinks, and the
Sramans (Buddhist priests), and Brahmans, used a
sort of syrup, made from the grapes or sugar-cane,
but not fermented. "
Other Chinese travellers came to India, the land
of Buddha, for pilgrimage or study. A Chinese writer,
named Tsang, records the name of 56 Chinese
travellers that came to India from 1 st. century after
Christ ; but sorry we have got no account of their
3. Arab Sources.*
A£ter the Mahomedan conquest, many Arab travel-
lers came to India. Some of them mentioned about
wine drinking here. Iben Fakia, an Arab traveller,
mentioning about the punishment of wine drinker, in
Kumar Kingdom, near Travancore, says that red hot
iron bars were left on the bare bodies, till they are
cold, and many died thereby.
Al-Masudi says, "the Hindus are free from drink
habits, and those who take wine, are degraded in
social status, not because their religious books
forbade the use of wine, but because wine deranges
the mind too. If a king is addicted to wine, his
subjects depose him ^\
Suleman— the Arab historian says, " the Hindus
are abstemious people, they are never luxurious, wine
is looked down upon, and a King, who drinks wine is
not truly a King '\
Iben Khurtuba says, *' In India, the Brahmins
never take wine, they pass their days in study. "
Alberuni, who came with Mahmud of Gazni, as
* The accounts of the records from Arab writers are
taken from Kumar A. K. Deb's " Sura " (wine).
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 45
prisoner from Khiva, records " Wine is forbidden
among the Hindus, but the Sudras may take it, but
can not sell. "
Thus we see that at even at the close of the 12th
century, the Hindus observed strictly the injunction
of the Smrities, and probably the Tantric doctrine
did not gain any hold over the society even then.
Wine in Ancient India.
LITERATURE AND ART.
Life is reflected in the literature of a nation, so
let us look to ancient literature. We have already
considered the ^reat epics, and the mythological
stories, and have seen heroes and chief characters in
these, were not free from drink. So with the charac-
ters in the dramas. The rich and wealthy invariably
indulged in wine. We have no space to quote many
passages from these. Only we give here the excellent
observation of Mr. R. C. Dutt : —
'* We know from Sakuntala that there were grog
shops, which were frequented by the very lowest
castes ; while among the courtiers of a luxurious
court, and among the profligate and the gay, drinking
was not unknown. Bharavi has a canto, on joys of
drinking, and Kalidas too often speaks of ladies
WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA. 47
whose lips were scented with perfume of Uquor !
Nagananda has an amusing passage relating to an
intoxicated courtier in search for his mistress, — a
slave girl. Drinking was almost universal in royal
courts, and the ladies of royal house-hold did not
refuse their share ! The Katha Sarit Sagara (chapter
110) thus describes the drinking hall of King Nara-
vahana Dutta. "It was full of goblets, made of
various jewels, which looked like so many expanded
lotuses and strewn with many flowers, so that it
resembled a lotus bed in a garden ; and it was
crowded with ladies with jugs full of intoxicating
liquor, who made it flash like the nectar appearing
in the arms of Garuda. There they drank wine,
that snaps those fetters of shame that bind the ladies
of the royal household, — wine the essence of Love's-
life, the ally of merriment ! "
"The mass of the middle classes and the industrial
and agricultural classes abstained from drink as they
do to this day. "*
We suppliment a few passages only to this
excellent extract, let me say here, that the industrial
classes of the present age are not so sober as in
Mr. Dutt's days (only 50 years hence).
In Mrichchakoti, we find that profligate youths
♦ Ancient India p. 788.
48 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
came to the house of a woman, to drink iced wine.
In Ratnabali, we see at the ceremony in honour,
of the God of Love, citizens, both male and female
being drunk, revelling in song and dance (Act V.).
We find wine is called 'ornament of woman.' (Act III).
We find in Raghubansa, the victorious army of Raghu
indulging in coconut-wine (4-42), in the Mahendra
hills, and in wine at a vineyard in Persia (4-65). In
this, we find the last of the Raghus indulged in wine
so much and other debauchery that he died a pre-
There are many passaj^es showing ladies freely
indulging in wine. It is a favourite with the poets
to say that Bakul flower does not bloom, unless a
lady has soaked it with a gargle of wine. Perhaps
suggested by this wine scented flower.
Wine is called the 'fruit of enjoyment' in Megha
In those days of ease and plenty, wine was an
object of enjoyment surely, but seldom we find the
masses abused it.
Like literature and art, sculpture too reflects the
life of the nation of the particular age. Sculpture
and art begin in India just at the Buddhist period.
Let me quote Dr. Fergussan, **When Hindu sculpture
first dawns upon us in the rails at Buddh Gaya and
Bharut B. C, 200 to 250 it was thoroughly original,
absolutely without foreign influence "
The art certainly declined when the gate-ways
at Sanchi were executed in first century of the
Christian era... Its downward progress was arrested
(probably) from a school of art implanted in that
land by Bactrian Greeks or... by direct intercourse
with Rome and B3'zentium).
Its effects were certainly apparent at Amaravati
in the 4th and 5th centuries, where a school of
sculpture developed partaking the characteristics ot
both those of Central India and the West."*
We have quoted the long extract to elucidate our
We see that the '*Asoke's pillars," as they are
called at Gaya have some figures carved upon them,
* History of Indian Architecture p. 34.
50 WINE IN ANCIENT INDIA.
showing the manners and customs of those days,
and these are one of the earhest sculptures of early
Indian art. Here we find domestic scenes represent-
ing love-making and drinking.*
Then we come to Bhanit rails, " making love and
drinking are not represented here as at Sanchi — nor
are the females represented nude as they are at
Muttra. All are decently clothed from waist down-
wards at least, and altogether the manners and
customs at Bharut are much purer as the art is better
than it is in the more modern example at Sanchi. t
These are truly Indian Arts without any foreign
Then we come to Muttra School which has
distinct trace of foreign influence — chiefly Greek. We
find here "busts of two figures, a male and female,
either making volent love to each other, or drinking
something stronger than water.'' t
The beautiful rails at Sanchi portray men and
women eating and drinking and making love.
In Grunwedel's Buddhist Art in India edited by
J. Burges we find an interesting figure from the
Sanchi rails, we quote his words : —
• History of Indian Architecture p. 86.
f History of Indian Artitecture p. 91.
I History of Indian Architecture p 93.
WINE IX ANCIENT INDIA. 51
"Ou the eastern j:^ate\vay two fii^urcs are
represented ridiiifc horned lions. One of the heads
is clearly not of Aryan type, the woolly negro-like
hair and thick coarse shape of the whole head —
surprise one, this same figure holds a bunch of grapes
in his hand. In India wine is unknown. There
appears to be no word in the early-language for vine,
or its cluster. * Probably vine signifies the foreign
influence. We also see two figures of two pedestals
that are in Lahore Museum figured in that book.
They are distinctly of Gandhara or Greek origin. One
represents some Bacchanalian orgy, even the men
in whose knee the women are seated look more
Romans than orientals." t The second represents "a
vintage scene, in which boys, leopards, a scene of
dalliance. Bacchus on a leopard and wine press of
Europe (unknown in India but common in Persia)
are in a distinctly Byzantine arrangement of the grape
vine." In the Ajanta cave we have got pictures of
From all these we conclude that wine drinking
was known in society in those days though not very
♦ Buddhist art in India p. 33, 34.
t Ibid p. 150.
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